The customarily cool-as-ice moderators on Lonely Planet’s iconic Thorn Tree travel forum erupted in an uncharacteristic flame war early yesterday that left community members and lurkers confused, anxious, and uncertain about the future.
Showing an unusual disregard for the company’s own Community Guidelines, the row appears to have erupted over the spelling of the word traveler/traveller. At 10:15am (GMT) on 1 April 2010, US-based Thorn Tree moderator docbrown posted a message intended to calm the turbulent waters of the forum’s volatile Scandinavia branch. The post was modified at 10:27am by Australia-based moderator Irene_Adler, who tweaked the spelling of the word ‘traveler’ to the Commonwealth-preferred ‘traveller’. Transcripts and screenshots obtained from anonymous community members show at least a glimpse of the battle that ensued:
docbrown: Please don’t edit my posts Irene. I know how to spell.
Edited by: We fought a revolution for the right to spell words more efficiently, you Aussie ******-bag
Irene_Adler: Don’t get smart with me. You and your fat-**** ignoramus Ameri-guns force your **** down our throats all the time. Like David Schwimmer; we would never have been exposed to David ****ing Schwimmer if it wasn’t for you *****. The least you can do is spell properly.
Edited by: Tired of your bull****
docbrown: That’s rich, coming from a culture whose biggest contribution to culture is Midnight Oil and Yahoo Serious.
Edited by: Go **** a koala and stay off my threads.
Though typically not quick to fire the banning cannon, both staff members made numerous attempts to terminate the other’s account only to discover unexpected limitations to their admin privileges. “Why are you still here?” exclaimed one of the enraged employees, followed by several posts containing only the letter Z and repeated use of the incomprehensible phrase “Quack orff missie”.
Childish attempts to modify each other’s avatars were quickly righted by Lonely Planet’s tireless team of system administrators, but we were able to obtain a screenshot from one witness:
Intervention by a third moderator, Andreas_at_LP, proved ineffective with the warring factions coming together momentarily to advise their colleague to “stick his avatar up his USB port.”
Despite the bitter fighting and name-calling of the two Tree wardens, not all forum etiquette was lost. At 11:04am both moderators took a moment to celebrate the thread reaching the 100 post mark.
“I’m really aghast,” said newbie member do_europe_2010. “Who would have thought that such ugliness could happen in an online forum? I’ve only been a member since yesterday, but this isn’t what Thorn Tree is for.”
Other members were more sanguine about the events, with a repeatedly banned user who has asked to remain anonymous saying they “smelt it coming.” One user we spoke to, cheap_viag_ra_243a3x2, was positively ebullient about the moderator war: “This was easily my most exciting day on Thorn Tree. Normally I have trouble getting on the forum at all, but yesterday I was up for nearly four hours posting with abandon.”
Others wondered how this would affect Thorn Tree’s reputation: “I can say for a fact that this would never happen on TripAdvisor, where incidentally, I’m a destination expert”, said MontanaRocks.
Community Manager VenessaP could not be reached for comment, but sobs have been heard emanating from a nearby fort of pillows.
It is understood from reliable sources that Lonely Planet has engaged the services of renowned psychiatrist Dr. Goran Wossar, who specialises in the psychological tolls of online community exposure (OCE) and whose expertise is in high demand in community management circles.
Though declining to comment on the specifics of the Lonely Planet case, Dr. Wossar stated that instances of OCE-induced ‘moderator meltdown’ are on the rise, with administrators increasingly susceptible to OCE hyper-toxicity.
“Preoccupation with proper spelling, grammar, tone, increase in use of italics and boldface, overuse of the crying emoticon, and telling users to ‘RTFM’ or ‘Google it’ are all symptoms of the anguished admin,” claimed Wossar, who showed no surprise at the recent events.
A tentative peace agreement has been reached between the two moderators, reports team work experience student Wayne, who told us the pair are “back on IM-ing terms, and have nearly lol-ed on several occasions”.
The Lonely Planet team must now shift their attention to recovery efforts within their startled community.
“It’s in my capable hands now”, said Wayne.